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Warner-Armstrong v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division

April 18, 2018

KYSETTA WARNER-ARMSTRONG PLAINTIFF
v.
HOME DEPOT U.S.A., INC. DEFENDANT

          ORDER AND OPINION

          David Bramlette UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 16] filed by Defendant Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.

         Background

         Kysetta Warner-Armstrong brought this falling-merchandise action against Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. (“Home Depot”) in Lincoln County Circuit Court. She alleges she was injured when an item fell from the shelf of a Brookhaven, Mississippi Home Depot store and struck her in the head. She cannot say what struck her or how it fell; she instead insists she “blacked out.”

         Invoking diversity jurisdiction, Home Depot removed the case to this Court.[1] It now moves for summary judgment, arguing Warner- Armstrong cannot prove one or more elements of her premises-liability claim under Mississippi law.

         I

         Summary judgment is proper if Home Depot shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). If Home Depot shows the absence of a disputed material fact, Warner-Armstrong “must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” McCarty v. Hillstone Restaurant Grp., Inc., 864 F.3d 354, 357 (5th Cir. 2017).

         The Court views facts and draws reasonable inferences in Warner-Armstrong's favor. Vann v. City of Southaven, Miss., 884 F.3d 307, 309 (5th Cir. 2018). As always, the Court neither assesses credibility nor weighs evidence at the summary-judgment stage. Gray v. Powers, 673 F.3d 352, 354 (5th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted).

         II

         Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, so the Court applies Mississippi premises-liability law. Mid-Continent Cas. Co. v. Swift Energy Co., 206 F.3d 487, 491 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938)).

         Warner-Armstrong is an invitee. See Patricola v. Imperial Palace of Miss., LLC, 235 So.3d 214, 216-17 (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). So to recover, she must show (1) a negligent act of Home Depot caused her injury; (2) Home Depot had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition; or (3) a dangerous condition remained long enough to impute constructive knowledge to Home Depot. Walz v. HWCC-Tunica, Inc., 186 So.3d 375, 377 (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). Each theory requires Warner-Armstrong to show a dangerous condition existed. Jones v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, 187 So.3d 1100, 1104 (Miss. Ct. App. 2016).

         A

         Home Depot contends it is entitled to summary judgment because Warner-Armstrong cannot prove that Home Depot created or had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition. In support, it points to portions of Warner-Armstrong's deposition testimony and her interrogatory responses. And it emphasizes Warner-Armstrong's inability to identify what item struck her and how it fell from the shelf. It also notes that Warner-Armstrong is the sole witness, and it suggests that she lacks credibility.

         Warner-Armstrong rejoins that she has presented circumstantial evidence showing her injury was caused by Home Depot's negligent failure to maintain its shelves. Home Depot is responsible for maintaining its shelves; it must therefore have created ...


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